Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Formal hearing begins for the sale of Kentucky Power to Liberty Utilities

Lawyers at the formal hearing on the sale of Kentucky Power to Liberty Utilities.
Kentucky Public Service Commission
Lawyers at the formal hearing on the sale of Kentucky Power to Liberty Utilities.

On Monday, the Kentucky Public Service Commission began hearing testimony in the sale of Kentucky Power to Liberty Utilities. During the open comments period, six people spoke in favor of the sale and two opposed it.

Rep. Angie Hatton, a Democrat who serves Letcher and parts of Pike and Harlan Counties, spoke during a public comment period of the hearing on Monday. She said she was happy when she heard about the sale.

“And I'm very happy that those people will continue to be employed. I'm very happy that there may even be some new jobs in my district that Liberty utilities has agreed to, or offered to employ,” Hatton said.

But Hatton is just one of many lawmakers who opose the sale, which has sparked debate over what long-term utility rates would be for customers. Kentucky Power residents have reported electric bills costing several hundred dollars. Last week, the Mountain Caucus — a group of Democrats and Republicans from eastern Kentucky — said electric bills can be more expensive than rent or mortgage payments.

“And I also believe that if we had an opportunity to have someone bid, that was perhaps a nonprofit, electric cooperative, that we might see better rates long term,’ Hatton said. “We're being offered some short term rate reductions, but we haven't been offered anything long term.”

Liberty has stated bills would decrease by 14 to 16% with the help of a $40 million fund to offset fuel costs — if the sale is approved by the Public Service Commission.

On Monday Peter Eichler, Senior Vice President of regulatory strategy and central services for Liberty Utilities, testified that AEP/Kentucky Power is paying for half of the $40 million. When asked if any more money would be contributed to the fund, Eicher said he doesn’t think so.

“I think that's better asked for AEP, but I don't believe that there's any further contribution that either party is willing to make,” he said.

Those in favor of the sale have said Liberty Utilities wants to assist the area with economic development.

Tim Gibbs is the CEO of Ashland Alliance, an economic development and chamber of commerce partnership. He spoke in support of the sale during the hearing Monday.

“Both nonprofits, other utilities, everyone had the opportunity to bid on this,” Gibbs said. “These are the people that wanted it — these are the people that wanted to make a difference and come into Eastern Kentucky.”

If the sale does go through, Hatton and the Mountain Caucus want Kentucky Power to return its profits to its customers as a rebate.

Last week Rep. Hatton spoke about the condition last week with other members of the Mountain Caucus.

“But whatever the profit is, we're asking that 90% of it be returned to the customer, so that this company that hasn't treated us very well and hasn't invested in our future very well, doesn't turn around and have a windfall as they leave their state,” she said.

The hearing will continue Tuesday, March 29 and Wednesday, March 30 at the Public Service Commission office in Frankfort.